Energy, economy and society


About this course

A reliable, affordable and clean energy supply is of major importance for society, economy and the environment – and will prove to be crucial in the 21st century. You, as future engineer, will be shaping the renewable energy revolution. But before you can do that, you will first have to know and understand the role of energy in economy and society - and that is what this course is about. We will start by highlighting the importance of energy, the big issues that we are facing and the need for an energy transition. We will draw upon energy transitions from the past (from traditional biomass to coal, and from coal to oil) to understand how such a process evolves.Next, we examine the current structure and trends in world energy supply and demand, by taking an “energy system” perspective. We introduce a range of instruments to analyse and manage energy supply and energy demand in the short term; and other instruments in support of decision making on energy investments and policy in the long term. We focus on estimation of profitability, economic efficiency, environmental performance and resource intensity. Tools and concepts include: energy demand estimation, energy balances, financial and social cost benefit analysis, levelised cost of energy, energy return on energy investment and multi-criteria analysis for complex decision making.Then, the organization and regulation of the electricity sector will be explained (nb: the gas sector shows very similar characteristics). We will highlight the shift in policies that has taken place in many countries of the world since the early 1980s: from central regulation of state-owned utilities and cost-plus price calculation (administrative pricing), to liberalisation, unbundling and introduction of market competition. We will explore the impacts of these changes on energy pricing, security and efficiency - with reference to the EU and emerging-economy energy markets.We round off the course by focusing on the challenges of a new energy transition – i.e. we revisit the issues already flagged in the first lecture: geo-politics, energy security, energy poverty. We contrast high-income and low-income countries. In particular, possibilities and limitations of (inter)national policies will be discussed: e.g. stimulation of renewables, carbon cap-and-trade mechanism designed under the Kyoto Protocol, and expected changes in the regulatory environment for greenhouse gas emissions after the expiration.

Additional test information:
PDEng students write an individual final course paper worth 70% of the final course grade, instead of taking the written examination.

Learning outcomes

  • You will get to know and understand the BIG energy issues that the world is facing today, and learn from energy transitions in the past, in order to understand better the challenges of the current sustainable energy transition.
  • You will be able to analyse energy problems by applying a systems perspective - both a technical system perspective (primary sources, conversion, distribution, end use; energy balances), as well as a socio-technical system perspective (embedding of technology in socio-economic context, innovation systems).
  • You will acquire basic knowledge about ‘ tools of the trade’ from economics and sustainability studies in support of decision making by companies, households and organisations in the energy sector - including energy demand estimation techniques, financial and social cost benefit analysis, levelised cost of energy, energy return on energy investment, multi-criteria analysis for complex decision making, and environmental/energy life cycle analysis.
  • You will also learn how to apply these tools and instruments to analyze the dynamics in energy supply and energy demand, understand how the interaction of energy supply and demand gives rise to certain socio-economic and environmental outcomes, and understand why these outcomes – if left unregulated - are often not optimal from a societal viewpoint.
  • You will learn about developments in and characteristics of policy and regulation in the electricity sector and be able to critically reflect on these (e.g. indicating the limited effectiveness of some instruments/policies)

Required prior knowledge

You must meet one of the following collections of requirements

  • Collection 1
  • Completed Final examination Bsc program
  • Collection 2
  • Completed Pre-Master

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of TU Eindhoven.


  • Start date

    11 November 2024

    • Ends
      19 January 2025
    • Term *
      Block GS2
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      15 Jun, 00:00 - 13 Oct 2024
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University